Lessons From the Apple/Jobs Controversy

Apple has always prided itself on “thinking different.” While scores of companies are working to rebuild obliterated consumer trust in the wake of the financial crisis, Apple has gone against the grain, stirring up a contentious debate with silence and secrecy regarding CEO Steve Jobs’ recent liver transplant. The news contradicts prior public statements from Apple about Jobs’ health, which cryptically focused on a “nutritional ailment,” thus fueling debates on what exactly the company is obligated to disclose to its shareholders and other core constituents. The timing of the liver transplant news is especially awkward: It coincided with the unveiling of the new iPhone 3GS and Jobs’ public comments about record sales and “winning,” all while he remained tight-lipped on the state of his own health. There are numerous lessons communications executives can extract from the recent Apple controversy: â–¶ “No comment” launches a company out of the driver’s seat: While Jobs has a reputation as a hyper-controlling leader, he and Apple have lost all control of the story surrounding his health and ability to lead Apple into a prosperous future.

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